The art piece Uhuru gave George Bush


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While President Uhuru was visiting the US recently, greater focus was, understandably, on the details of the trade talks as well as the fact that Kenya was trying to mend fences with cousin Barry’s country, seeing as ‘choices have consequences.’

The focus later dramatically shifted to President Kagame’s daughter.

Much later, Uhuru was pictured in a godfather (Stetson hat) and somewhat over-sized American cowboy boots. Although he eventually did visit George Bush Jnr, he of ‘you are either with us or against us’ fame, not much was said about a piece of ‘cloth’ the two were holding.

Well, that piece of cloth was a painting Uhuru donated to the former US president – don’t ask how they came to know each other, we don’t know either. Turns out Uhuru appreciates art – Kenyan art to be specific – that he considered it important to give one to a former US president as a gift.

We did a little digging and realised the painting is titled ‘Ni hoja, lakini sio hoja’ (It’s an issue but an issue). Confusing huh? Well, that is what artists do sometimes – confuse people. The piece was done by Patrick Kinuthia.

‘Ni Hoja, Lakini Si Hoja’ painting done by Patrick Kinuthia.

The painting, an acrylic on canvas, measuring 100cm by 150cm, features a couple standing before a group of women in an open air market. From the picture, it would appear the man is trying to say something to the woman with a baby strapped on her back.

The woman is either ignoring the man or is pretending not to hear.

It is not clear whether the man and woman are a couple or not. Curiously though, the man is clutching a package with the letters VCT, clearly written on it. Could it be that the couple are just from a VCT centre? Who between the man and the woman is saying the words, ‘ni hoja, lakini sio hoja’? More importantly, why would they choose to have such a conversation in a public place.

Still, could the man be a health worker trying to convince the women in a marketplace to go and have their HIV status checked? Questions, questions and more questions. Incidentally, that is what a good artist is supposed to do; provoke your mind into thinking. And as they say, you take what you see in a piece of art.

William Ndwiga, the projects coordinator of The Little Art Gallery says he received a call from the Kenyan ambassador to the US asking for a ‘high value painting that can be displayed in a museum in the USA for posterity.’ He did not disclose the value of the painting though.

“I see The Little Art Gallery running art exhibitions by Kenyans in Kenyan embassies around the world to showcase what Kenya has to offer to the world. I have already started this process,” Ndwiga says.

Kinuthia’s bio says that he ‘reflects both a freestyle approach, as well as being a disciplined observer of human and animal form behaviour.’

Born in 1967, Kinuthia worked for Citizens Cinema Cooperation as a poster artist for its cinema halls, making scenery and portraits under the tutelage of Pakistani artist, Mohammed Rafiq. He is married with two sons.

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